Make a humming sound.
Try it with mmmmmm…
Try it with nnnnnnnnn…
What is the difference? Where do you feel the vibration?
Now we will use the E vowel. E is a very resonant vowel sound that is easy to feel. Observe where you feel the vibration. Try to pinpoint where the most vibration is happening. It may move around.
Try the same exercise on a different vowel.
Once a singer can feel the internal resonance of the vowel they learn to bring the sound forward and resonate outward.
Sustain a rolling R sound
Sustain a rolling B (children make this sound when they are playing motor boat; it is made entirely with the lips)
Add the A vowel after the rolling R or B. You should feel your lips vibrating and the projected forward feel. This is a forward vowel.
When singing pop music many students have issues blending their chest and head voices. Working with tone and resonance helps this. I have students start on a rolling R in their lower register, get a good breath and then slowly slide up a 5th. They slide between the chest and head voice. In order to make a smooth transition you have to be using proper breath support. Once you can do it with the rolling sounds try it on an E vowel. Note that there is a more detailed description of this exercise in the REGISTRATION section.
When singers are learning a song I prefer that they learn the melody using a pure vowel sound, and slide from note to note, focusing on inner and outer resonance.
Many singers think that projection means getting louder — and consequently they raise the intensity of the tone when increasing volume. My father is hard of hearing. I remember him teaching me about projection. One need not yell to be heard; one just needs to direct one’s voice. Just like an actor that can fill an auditorium with what seems to be a whisper. My brother and I once did projection experiments and found that we could be a ¼ mile apart and project our speaking voice to hear one another — instead of yelling to the other person.
Try it: Next time you are practicing look out the window, or across the room. I look at the bench on the hillside outside my practice room. Imagine a person or find an object a fair distance away, and direct your sound to them/it. Do not get louder, but sing so that person can hear. Sing with a speaking tone. Sing to them in a whispery tone.
Did the visualization help?
Singers without formal training benefit greatly from basic classical technique, but many students that have some formal classical training (or grew up singing in choirs) struggle with the diffusion of tone in pop music and may confuse projection, volume and intensity. When one is singing into a microphone the purer tones, and certain types of projection, can sound harsh. Amplification changes many things. I have created a series of exercises to help diffuse tone, with exciting results.